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North Dakota DUI Arrest and Court Process



This article describes the DUI process in North Dakota in general terms. It is important to keep in mind that the local rules and customs in each county and court may differ slightly from what you see below. For that reason it is very important to talk with an experienced local North Dakota DUI lawyer who has experience in the county where your case will be heard to find out the exact process and what to expect in your case.

North Dakota DUI Arrest Process

When a driver is stopped by a police officer for any reason, the officer will begin looking for signs that the driver is under the influence. These might include slurred speech, alcohol on the driver’s breath or clothes, or the results of a portable breath test. If the officer believes that there’s a good reason to think the driver is under the influence, the officer will arrest him or her.

After anyone charged with a crime in North Dakota is arrested, the police officers who arrest him or her are required to inform him or her of the charges against him or her and bring the defendant before a judge or magistrate. Typically, this must be done within 48 hours of the arrest, but there is an exception if the State can demonstrate that unusual or emergency circumstances require a longer time.

Unlike most states, in North Dakota, the police do not have the option to release defendants who are charged with misdemeanor offenses with a citation. Instead, all defendants charged with misdemeanors or felonies must be brought before the nearest judge or magistrate without unnecessary delay after being arrested.

North Dakota DUI Criminal Court Process

When the defendant appears in court, the judge will first tell the defendant about the charges facing him or her and the punishments that are possible for a conviction as well as the right to a public defender or court-appointed attorney for all of the proceedings starting with the initial appearance and extending through trial to an appeal.

In a felony DUI case, the court will next conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether the defendant is probably guilty of that crime. At this proceeding, the State will present witnesses and evidence which the defendant can challenge or refute with witnesses or evidence of his or her own. If the court concludes that the defendant probably is guilty of the crime he or she is charged with, the defendant will have to plead guilty or go to trial.

In misdemeanor DUI cases, the court will usually not conduct a preliminary hearing and instead the judge or magistrate will determine on his or her own whether the information contained in the complaint creates good cause to believe the defendant is guilty. DUI cases may be heard in municipal courts or in district courts. It’s usually at this point that the court will consider whether to release the defendant on bail before the trial.

Bail will probably be granted in DUI cases in North Dakota, but the court can require various things from the defendant before allowing him or her to be released on bail, ranging from a promise to appear (which is known as “release upon one’s own recognizances”) to restrictions on the defendant’s behavior, to a bond which the defendant must forfeit to the court if he or she fails to appear when called.

Usually, the next step is the court asking the defendant to enter a plea. If the defendant hasn’t yet consulted an attorney and wishes to do so, the court will allow him or her an opportunity to do so before accepting the plea. The defendant must plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial.

Trial Process For North Dakota DUI Cases

All misdemeanors and felonies in North Dakota, including DUI offenses, are tried in jury trials. All felonies are tried by a jury of 12 people. Class A misdemeanors are tried by a jury of 6 unless the defendant requests a jury of 12.

All other misdemeanors are tried by a jury of 6. All of the jurors must agree on a verdict. Jury trials begin with the selection of the jury from a panel of potential jurors and the defendant may participate in the process of selecting them. Once the jury is selected and sworn, both the prosecution and the defense will give an opening statement. The State will present its witnesses and evidence, and the defense may challenge the State’s case by cross-examining State witnesses. The defense may put on a case of its own or may rely on the burden on the prosecution to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.